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Early Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

August 13th, 2014 @ 12:01 am
Posted by Kaitlin under Review Tags: Amy Ewing, Fantasy, Review, The Jewel, The Lone City Series, Young Adult

The JewelTitleThe Jewel

Author: Amy Ewing

Genre: YA Fantasy

Series: The Lone City (Book #1)

Publication Date: September 2, 2014

Format: Hardcover, 358 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062235796 (HarperTeen)

ISBN-13: 978-0062235794 (HarperTeen)

Reviewed by: Kaitlin

Synopsis:

The Selection meets The Handmaid’s Tale in this darkly riveting debut filled with twists and turns, where all that glitters may not be gold.

The Jewel means wealth, the Jewel means beauty—but for Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Born and raised in the Marsh, Violet finds herself living in the Jewel as a servant at the estate of the Duchess of the Lake. Addressed only by her number—#197—Violet is quickly thrown into the royal way of life. But behind its opulent and glittering facade, the Jewel hides its cruel and brutal truth, filled with violence, manipulation, and death.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her life . . . all while trying to stay alive. But before she can accept her fate, Violet meets a handsome boy who is also under the Duchess’s control, and a forbidden love erupts. But their illicit affair has consequences, which will cost them both more than they bargained for. And toeing the line between being calculating and rebellious, Violet must decide what, and who, she is willing to risk for her own freedom.

Quick & Dirty: I really enjoyed this novel, all but one aspect: the romance. It was insta-love and traveled way to fast.

Opening Sentence: Today is my last day as Violet Lasting.

Excerpt: No

The Review:

A circular, lone city lies behind a great wall that keeps out the ocean that threatens to engulf it. In this city the people are separated into groups, with the Jewel at the center filled with the royalty, and the Marsh at the edge of the wall, poor and hungry. But some strange mutation, or something, says that the royalty cannot effectively have babies, and only those of the Marsh can do it for them. Because some poor people have developed magic that allows them to grow the royal’s baby in their belly and give birth to it, and they are tested for this ability. If they have it, they are taken away and sold to the royals for the rights to use them to give birth to their babies. Violet doesn’t want this life. But it’s too late.

When I read the synopsis of The Jewel I couldn’t help being excited. It’s everything I love — pretty dresses (I’m talking to you, The Selection), a richly built fantasy world, and a forbidden romance. And The Jewel delivered on two of those three counts. For one, the pretty dresses. They made me swoon, not to mention the fan-tastic cover. It’s gorgeous! Reminds me of The One cover except, dare I say it — it’s better. And next, we have the fantasy world. Ewing also delivered for this one, and I loved delving deeper with every page into the Lone City. The world building was strong, and the premise unique with just the right amount of creepiness. So that leads me to the failed count — romance. Romance can be something that clears away any faults I had before, something that makes the story a definite hit in my mind. However, that was just not the case for The Jewel.

The worst thing about the romance for me was the clear case of insta-love. Now, I am fine with insta-attraction, or insta-interest, or a version of their relationship that develops in some way. However, from the moment that the two meet, bam! They are deeply in love. Their relationship doesn’t build or develop, and it moved extremely fast into kissing (among other things). Thankfully, I was interested enough in the plotline itself that the novel was saved, but if the romance was better this might have been my favorite book of the year and received not only five stars, but the crown as well. I didn’t know why she was risking so much to be with a boy she just met. Also, let me tell you, I’m pretty sure they kiss the second or third time meeting and tell each other they love the other on number five or six. And they go beyond kissing by seven or eight. It was like a three year relationship squished into three weeks.

Some have compared The Jewel to The Selection. Pretty dresses, check. Some version of a caste or ranking system, check. However their are many distinguishments I can make — for one, Violet is much less reckless then America. She has enough emotion for me to root for her but is also intelligent enough to hold her tongue when America would not. Also, The Jewel hits more sensitive subjects of slavery, with a little magic in the mix. But America is smart on some counts. Her romances grow and develop, both of them deeper by the time the series is over, while Violet’s do not (in the slightest). Don’t get me wrong, I love both books. I swallowed both in a day. They were both enjoyable and interesting and I’m so excited for book two of The Jewel.

Basically, I loved everything about this novel except the love interest. One small problem that really isn’t relevant is that when Violet was listening to the royalty talk, they would name each other not by their titles but their first names, which I couldn’t keep straight. It was a tad bit confusing, not that it matters.

Violet is such an amazing, strong heroin. The magic they added to the story that made it fantasy was just the icing on the cake, and I loved hearing about the three auguries. I really couldn’t put this book down, only when I had to for mundane tasks like eating and sleeping, uch. I was very impressed by the world-building and how it was dolled out pretty nicely so their were only small parts where you got info-dumped. Hearing about the magic, how the royalty were ranked, it was all great. I wish the author had touched the ocean behind the wall more, but I have a feeling it will be in the next books. I also loved the character of the Dutchess, just enough compassion to empathize, but just enough evil to hate. She was a prime candidate for an antagonist. And be prepared for a twist at the end that truly surprised me. The very last page, I reread over and over, saying “what?!” Altogether, I am a fan of The Jewel!

Notable Scene:

Lucien sighs. “You don’t talk much, do you, 197?”

I clear my throat. “My name-”

He holds up a finger and shakes his head. “Sorry, honey. I can’t know your name.”

Even though I have no attachment to this man, and I’ll probably never see him again, the fact that he isn’t allowed to know my name, my name, not some number I’ve been assigned, brings tears to my eyes. My chest tightens.

The Lone City Series:

1. The Jewel

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FTC Advisory: HarperTeen provided me with a copy of The Jewel.  No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Review: Once We Were by Kat Zhang

August 12th, 2014 @ 12:01 am
Posted by Bridget under Review Tags: Kat Zhang, Once We Were, Review, Sci-Fi, The Hybrid Chronicles, Young Adult

Once We WereTitle: Once We Were

Author: Kat Zhang

Genre: YA Sci-Fi

Series: The Hybrid Chronicles (Book #2)

Publication Date: September 17, 2013

Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062114905 (HarperTeen)

ISBN-13: 978-0062114907 (HarperTeen)

Reviewed by: Bridget

Synopsis:

“I’m lucky just to be alive.”

Eva was never supposed to have survived this long. As the recessive soul, she should have faded away years ago. Instead, she lingers in the body she shares with her sister soul, Addie. When the government discovered the truth, they tried to “cure” the girls, but Eva and Addie escaped before the doctors could strip Eva’s soul away.

Now fugitives, Eva and Addie find shelter with a group of hybrids who run an underground resistance. Surrounded by others like them, the girls learn how to temporarily disappear to give each soul some much-needed privacy. Eva is thrilled at the chance to be alone with Ryan, the boy she’s falling for, but troubled by the growing chasm between her and Addie. Despite clashes over their shared body, both girls are eager to join the rebellion.

Yet as they are drawn deeper into the escalating violence, they start to wonder: How far are they willing to go to fight for hybrid freedom? Faced with uncertainty and incredible danger, their answers may tear them apart forever.

Quick & Dirty: Action packed sequel that progressed perfectly. With the unique idea, cute romance, and adventure, this is sure to be a hit with all young adult sci-fi fans!

Opening Sentence: We share a heart, Addie and I.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Surviving Nornand Clinic was just the beginning for hybrids Eva and Addie. They live in a world where everyone is born with two souls in one body. Eventually as you grow older the recessive soul will eventually disappear, but if it doesn’t you are known as a hybrid. Living in America being a hybrid is illegal and if the government finds out they take you away to a facility that tries to cure you. But most of the time the children are never heard from again. Eva and Addie were able to hide that they were hybrids for a long time but eventually they were caught and sent to Nornand. But before they could be cured they were able to escape and now they are fugitives.

They were rescued by a small group that is fighting to free all hybrids. For the first time they are surrounded by others just like them and they have started to learn things about themselves they never knew was possible, like how to temporarily disappear so they can give each other a little privacy. It is a whole new world to them that is both exciting and scary at the same time. There is also an underground resistance that is trying to gain hybrids more freedom and the girls are eager to help in whatever way they can. But soon the violence starts to escalate and the girls are torn on what they should do. All the stress and uncertainty has put a strain on their relationship as well. How high of a price are they willing to pay for freedom?

I loved watching Eva develop and learn how to control her own life. She was the recessive soul so for most of her life she has just lived inside of Addie’s mind, but with the new things the girls have learned it has allowed Eva to finally have a life of her own. Eva is actually very spirited and has a strong personality. Out of the two, I am surprised that she is considered the recessive soul because she is actually very brave and outgoing. She is also a very passionate person with a big heart. She loves Addie but the two of them have very different opinions on a lot of things. There are times when Eva can be extremely selfish but she never does it on purpose. Overall, I thought that Eva was a great character that had believable flaws and great qualities that made her very easy to love.

I was surprised to see a very different side to Addie. She is very shy at times and actually a lot more reserved then I originally thought. Out of the two girls she is a lot more observant and cautious.  She has a big heart and is willing to give up a lot to make Eva and others she cares about happy. Whenever Eva would start to get a little out of control, Addie was always the voice of reason that brought her back to herself. I sometimes wish that there were times when I could be inside Addie’s head just so I could understand her better, but overall I really liked her character.

Once We Were was an action packed sequel with romance and suspense. The character development was done perfectly and I loved meeting all the new characters. The pacing was good but there were a few times where it dragged a little, but those moments didn’t last long. The transition between the two books was well done and I loved watching the story unfold. You get to learn so much more about the world and the plot really thickened. There was a great setup for the next book and now I can’t wait to finish out this wonderful series. Lucky for me the final book releases next month! I would highly recommend this series to anyone looking for a fun, action packed YA sci-fi story.

Notable Scene:

<Are you sure?>

Addie pushed our pillow against the headboard and leaned against it. Our damp hair clung to our neck. A breath shuddered through our lungs.

 <I’m sure.> But her voice was quiet, hesitant.

Frightened, I realized, and I almost said: No, no, don’t do it, Addie. Don’t do it if you’re frightened. The last thing I wanted was for Addie to be frightened. Our teeth rasped against our bottom lip. When she spoke again, her words were stronger. <Do you remember how you did it? When we were thirteen?>

When we were thirteen? I’d been so angry then—I hadn’t even known what I was doing. I’d just wanted to be anywhere but where I was. Lyle’s sickness had started that year. Addie and I had fought, and in that moment, everything had been too much to bear. I’d willed myself to feel nothing at all, to disconnect from the world and dissolve like morning mist in sunlight.

Addie let me take control of our body as I tried my best to explain. Our chest quivered with my attempt at steady breathing.

 It probably won’t even happen, I thought, trying to calm myself.

Which was fine. Addie had agreed to try, and that was the important thing. We wouldn’t achieve anything this go-around, but Addie had agreed to try, so there would be other chances, and sooner or later, she’d—

There was a feeling like a balloon popping inside us.

Then Addie was gone.

The Hybrid Chronicles:

1. What’s Left of Me

2. Once We Were

3. Echoes of Us (September 16, 2014)

FTC Advisory:  HarperTeen provided me with a copy of Once We Were.  No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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Cover Judge #1

August 11th, 2014 @ 7:10 am
Posted by Bridget under Cover Judge Tags: Bree Despain, Catalyst, Charmed, Cover Judge, Deadeye, Deception's Pawn, Dream a Little Dream . Kiersten Gier, Ellie Cahill, Esther Friesner, Grave Visions. Kalayna Price, Jennifer A. Nielsen, Lydia Kang, Mark of the Thief, Melinda Salisbury, Michelle Krys, The Eternity Key, The Sin Eater's Daughter, When Joss Met Matt, William C. Dietz

We have decided to try out a new feature on the blog today. Personally, I love cover reveals. They not only get me excited for all the books coming out they also are so fun to look at. But not all covers are great, some are a little weird and to be honest I do judge a book by its cover. If it has a gorgeous cover I am way more willing to buy it even if the book wasn’t great. If it has an ugly or boring cover my odds of purchasing it go way down. Kaitlin and I put together a video where we talk about all the recent cover reveals and what we thought of them. Let us know in the comments which books you are most excited for and whether or not you tend to judge a book by its cover! Also, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel here so you don’t miss any of our videos!!

 

    

    

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Preview of New Releases

August 11th, 2014 @ 7:00 am
Posted by Bridget under New Releases Tags: New Releases

We just have a few weeks left of summer and luckily the publishing world has started to pick back up. There are some great books coming out soon! Check out what is hitting shelves this week below and let us know which books you are most excited about!

Books Releasing the Week of August 10-August 16

    

    

    

    

  

Re-releasing in Paperback

 

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Movie: Fifty Shades of Grey

August 10th, 2014 @ 12:01 am
Posted by Angela under Movies Tags: E.L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey, Movie

Fifty Shades PosterI’m sure many of you are eagerly (more like breathlessly) awaiting the release of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie, currently scheduled to hit theaters on Valentine’s Day in 2015.  I fear that I too will be sucked into the Shades madness by my gaggle of co-workers demanding that we all see the film together, and to make sure that we have all read the books in advance.  Against my better judgment, I gave into the peer pressure and finally purchased Fifty Shades of Grey.  I just don’t see the fascination with this story. There is really nothing original about it.  I wasn’t blown away by the synopsis of this story.  Many of my trusted book buddies hated these books.  My mom read the series with her work book club and thought it was drivel and poorly written.  A lot of my favorite book blogs destroyed this series in their reviews.  To top it all off, my co-worker told me that E.L. James originally crafted this story as Twilight fan-fiction. Uh, okay.  With so much hype surrounding this series, I can see how it would be hard to live up to everyone’s expectations.  Look, I’m not going to lie, when it comes to “erotic” fiction it’s easy to distinguish between rubbish and masters of the genre.  It’s a shame that this genre gets such a bad rap. Nobody wants to read a creepy or poorly written sex scene.  Nobody wants to read weird language use or even weirder descriptive phrases.  The reality is that this can translate over into any genre.  I like well-written stories, well crafted sex scenes, well developed characters, a killer plotline, etc.  I never think twice about reading stories from Jaci Burton, Sylvia Day, Karin Tabke, Lora Leigh, or Shayla Black.  These ladies deliver, time and time again.  I’m only 40% into Fifty Shades of Grey on my Kindle and it’s just an okay read thus far.  This book doesn’t seem all that risque or erotic to me. Riveted?  Not really.  Will I be able to stick with this series?  I just don’t know.  It’s likely that I won’t.  Will I see Fifty Shades of Grey with my co-workers?  Probably, but only if they buy me a ticket! :-)

Will the movie be a success?  That too is also unclear, at least critically acclaimed anyway.  The series is a bestselling phenomenon selling more than 90 million copies. That doesn’t necessarily translate into obscene millions at the box office (word of mouth could kill momentum).  The role of the iconic billionaire Christian Grey is being played by Jamie Dornan.  Anastasia Steele will be played by Dakota Johnson.  I’m still on the fence about the casting in this movie.  I do think that Dornan is the better choice to play Christian, but as for Dakota Johnson — not so much.  Even after watching the movie trailer it’s not clear to me that main characters share an all consuming connection.  Does Johnson have the acting chops to pull a role like this off?

Fifty Shades 2Fifty Shades 1

I have my doubts that this type of source material can translate well on the big screen. Mostly because I don’t feel like these characters are romantic in the slightest and the reality is that a lot of these sex scenes will NEVER get past the MPAA.  So what are we left with?  I hear fans of the series talk about the romance element and the connection that Christian and Ana share and thus far, I have not felt it or seen it in the portion of the story that I have read.  It feels pretty soulless to me.  Many of these sex scenes will fade to black.  The studio wants an R rating to get people in the theater.  NC-17 is off the table since most theater chains will not carry the rating, and that will then limit the sales and earning capacity of the film.  With many of the sex scenes being cut or dumbed down for the audience, I don’t see the point in making a film that is supposed to highlight Christian’s sexual predilections (his very “singular erotic tastes”) and Ana’s willingness to be “enlightened” if in fact this isn’t tastefully and artfully shown to the audience.  I get that NC-17 can be a disaster.  Just think about that dreadful movie called “Showgirls”.  Just awful in every way possible.  But honestly, with most of the base of this series being driven by females, the studio has to know that women aren’t interested in seeing Ana objectified and exploited sexually because the MPAA is willing to show only tits and ass, while the driving force of the story is really Christian and the world that he exposes Ana to.  You can bet though that the studio will not bare all of Jamie Dornan.  The only real networks with the guts to be honest about male sexuality and exposure are Starz and HBO.  I just don’t think these scenes will have a very real or authentic feel to them.

Fifty Shades 4Fifty Shades of Gray

Universal Pictures has launched a very interesting marketing campaign for the movie. Fans can sign-up to become interns for Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc. and complete assignments/tasks.  Recently, Universal Pictures also released an official movie trailer. What do you guys think?

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